Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Northern Ireland's economy on slow road to recovery

The Northern Ireland economy will continue to tread water this year as the "slow, protracted recovery" continues, according to the latest report from Danske Bank.

It's Quarterly Sectoral Forecast said that pockets of good news, such as inward investment announcements, have been countered by increasing job losses and relatively static output.

Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan pegged growth in the Northern Ireland economy at 0.4% for 2013 before picking up to a more healthy 1.7% in 2014.

"Despite pockets of good news, particularly around inward investment announcements, the headline data depicts an economy in virtual standstill this year," she said. "Local job losses have continued to inch upwards and economic output levels are relatively static, but some sectors are achieving stronger than average levels of growth".

This patchwork recovery shines a light on some of the best performing industries, ones which have a noticeable tendency to "tap into international trade opportunities".

The most impressive is the ICT sector which Danske Bank expect to grow by 3.5% this year, 5% in 2014 and 7.5% in 2015.

Ms McGowan said the sector took on 300 people in the last quarter of 2015 and is expected to take on a further 1,500 people by the end of 2015.

"By taking advantage of the availing infrastructure that has been heavily invested in over the last few years, the opportunities for the sector in Northern Ireland are considerable."

And the agricultural sector has remained resilient, although the bank downgraded its forecasts for it to 2.7% in 2013 from 3.4% given the harsh winter weather and horse meat scandal.

Manufacturing is also performing well with a growth rate of 1.6% although employment levels in the sector are expected to level off in the coming year.

Dragging on economic growth are the construction industry, where employment has fallen by 2,100 in the last quarter of 2012 and the public sector which is expected to contract in 2013.

"The expectation is still for a slow protracted recovery with growth of 0.4% this year, although it is worth noting that there is significant deviation in the performance of local sectors," Ms McGowan said. In addition, 2013 presents an array of economic opportunities for Northern Ireland. Events like the World Police and Fire Games, the G8 Summit and the City of Culture will all deliver customers to our doorstep this year so a degree of support for the hospitality as well as the arts and recreation sectors should be expected".

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